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The Essentials' Bossman is back with the second edition of his Street Anthems mix series. And it's seriously, seriously large. Unlike a lot of other recent mixtapes, this is actually mixed. Really. It's not a hip-hop style collection of tracks with explosions and jingles between the tunes, but an actual mixed cd. Which is nice for a change. Fortunately, Bossman can actually beatmix, unlike a lot of pirate set dj's you hear, who just flick the fader over between tracks seemingly randomly. As someone who has been dj'ing for 8 years now (Christ!) it's quite nice for me to actually hear, on a mix cd, a grime dj that can hold down nice long mixes between tracks. Another nice thing about a mix cd in this format is that it it's more uptempo than the more hip-hop styled mixtapes, which underlines just how different this music remains from standard hip-hop. Sometimes the slower mixtapes show more of a convergence with hip-hop, which is ok I guess, but I'm from a dance music background, so I prefer uptempo and more distinctively dancey sounds.
Having sat out UK Garage, which I wasn't feeling at all, the main thing that attracted me to grime was the combination of hip-hop/dancehall-style lyricism and style with the raw electronic energy that reminded me of my junglist days. When the formula is worked exactly right, there's a beautiful balance in grime between these two elements. Sometimes, though, over the last couple of months I've started to feel like the balance is tipping too much towards the former, and that the sonic energy that is such an important part of grime's appeal (at least to me) is being sacrificed so that the mc's can use their mixtapes to emulate more closely their American rap heroes. This is why I often prefer recordings of pirate sets, which are almost always madness from start to finish, to the more relaxed feel of some mixtapes. This is not a problem with this cd, which is pretty wildly energetic from start to finish.
Tunes wise, there's not much arguing that can be done with this cd. If the first edition was a bit dated tunes-wise, at least by the time it came out, this is all quite current and fresh stuff. There's not much on here that I haven't heard before, but I'm a chronic junky for this music, so that's no big surprise. Still, there's little here that I'm sick of. One of the things that you notice when you listen to this cd all the way through is just how good grime is getting. The London scene seems to be pretty supremely confident at the moment. The quality of the mc's on a flow, lyrical, and style level is as good as it's ever been; it's amazing to think of how far standards have improved in only a couple of years from the frankly dire levels of people like So Solid Crew.
On a musical level the tunes are, to be honest, awesome. The production quality seems to be constantly improving, the quality of the tunes' execution always moving on to a new level. Indeed, unlike jungle/dnb, which, as the quality of production improved painted itself into a corner of glossy screwface rave noise, grime is spreading its wings musically. There's an awesome range of styles on this cd, from Dexplicit's rnb-as-made-by-vengeful-robots remix of Carmen Reece's 'U Got Me' to the Gypsytronic roll of Roll Deep's 'When I'm Ere' to the synth-horned explosions of the handful of Davinche tracks, and so on and so forth. That's another nice thing about this cd, that despite being a member of Essentials, Bossman has gathered tracks up from a whole range of London crews. The slewing/warring thing is kind of amusing to hear from an outsider's perspective, but I definitely hope that the grime scene can work together, and that stuff like this can work as a catalyst for further collaboration.
So, final verdict? Awesome cd.